Welcome to 30 Days, 30 Ways to Green, where we're sharing all the little (and not so little!) things we do to live eco-friendlier every day. Stick with us all month long for a lineup of handy tips—from composting do's and don'ts to which reusable products really light up our lives.
A few weeks ago, as I unloaded my groceries, I took a few moments to consider just how much plastic I’d accumulated in one trip, between the plastic produce bags, plastic food containers, and plastic-wrapped veggies.
It was a not-so-subtle (extra-crinkly) reminder that I know I want to do my part to be kinder to the earth, but to be honest, I never know where to start. Is it better to stop using one-time grocery bags, or to walk instead of driving? To start composting or to cut back on plastics? Some day soon, I hope I’ll do it all, but for me these kinds of lifestyle changes tend to “stick” better when I take them one step at a time.
So, I asked several experts for the number one thing they'd suggest I do to start living a more eco-friendly life right now—here’s what they said.
Let your curiosity drive your lifestyle change, suggests Kestrel Jenkins, host of the Conscious Chatter podcast about sustainable fashion.
"For me, it's all about asking questions,” she says. “It seems super basic, but can truly help you start small, and begin exploring what an eco-friendly lifestyle means for you.”
What kind of questions? Start with what genuinely interests you: “Maybe you're curious about your clothing and what it's made of, or you're interested in knowing more about where your food comes from.”
“Whatever it is for you, remember there's never just one answer,” Jenkins recommends. “Find the direction that works for you, so your curiosity and knowledge continue to snowball, and your choices can become sustainable with your lifestyle."
“The best thing people can do is make a commitment and stick to it,” says Kathryn Kellogg, the blogger behind Going Zero Waste. “Whether that's bringing your own thermos to the coffee shop every day, your own plate to the café that serves in nothing but disposables, truly committing to no more plastic water bottles, or actually bringing your own bags to the grocery store.”
She says it doesn’t matter what the commitment is, as long as you follow through: “There are so many easy ways people can have a positive impact, but the first step is definitely committing to the idea that's what you want to do.”
“I believe the number one step people can take to live a more eco-friendly lifestyle is to cook,” says Anne Marie Bonneau, aka the Zero Waste Chef.
“When you cook, you eat more whole foods, which means you eat fewer highly processed foods—the stuff packaged in single-use, throwaway plastic,” she explains. “You also waste less food because you figure out what to do with that extra cup of pasta sauce, that half bell pepper, or leftover parsley from previous meals. This reduces food waste—a major contributor to climate change.”
Kellogg also recommends considering adding new cooking habits to your repertoire: “As far as the largest impact people can have, I would definitely recommend more plant-based meals, and looking into a compost service or starting your own compost pile.”
Finally, according to Andrea Ruiz-Hays of Recycle Across America, we can help the environment by prioritizing recyclable packaging and familiarizing ourselves with what can and can’t go into the recycle stream.
“The most important step we can take to start living a more eco-friendly lifestyle is to be an educated consumer,” says Ruiz-Hays. “Always consider reuse first, and if that’s not an option for the product, make sure you’re purchasing from brands that are using material that can have endless recyclability.”